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Cartographica Helvetica


István Klinghammer und Gábor Gercsák:

The Hungarian geographer Pál Teleki, member of the Mosul Commission

Cartographica Helvetica 19 (1999) 17–25


Mosul, a province in northern Iraq, became a point of contention between Turkey and Great Britain in the early 1920s. Turkey claimed that Mosul was part of its former territory, but Great Britain had occupied this oil-rich region after World War I. Having failed to resolve their conflict, the two countries finally agreed to settle the dispute through the League of Nations. The League laid down a demarcation line (the so-called Brussels Line) and appointed a fact-finding commission to visit Iraq, survey public opinion, and meet with officials on both sides. The principal commissioners were a Swedish diplomat, a Belgian army officer, and the Hungarian geographer Pál Teleki. It was Teleki's task to collect ethnographic data. Both Britain and Turkey supplied their own ethnographic maps, but Teleki was not satisfied because of the inappropriate methods used for representing the statistical data. He knew that small-scale minority maps often show typical mistakes and errors that distort 'reality'. In addition, different statistical sources were used which made it impossible to compare the maps. Therefore, Teleki decided to draw his own ethnographic maps.

After three months of intensive work, the Mosul Commission suggested that the Brussels Line should be accepted. The Commission's recommendations reflect wise views on long-term minority policy based on good geographical knowledge and are therefore still valid and convincing.

Bibliographic note

  • Article translated from English, and edited, by Markus Oehrli.

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